Listen before you speak

If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom.”
Job 13:5

In one day, Job received four messages telling him that his livestock, servants, and ten children had died due to invaders or natural catastrophes. Job rightfully becomes distraught and wanted to know why. Later his body breaks out in boils adding physical anguish to his already troubled mental health. Job was considered blameless, righteous, and God-fearing and even God said of him, “For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity” (Job 2:3). So why were bad things happening to this good person? Human nature wants to explain this, and most feel especially compelled to provide answers when a friend comes to us with a tale of woe.

Even though every person faces a unique set of circumstances, adversity is an experience that runs throughout human history. Some people face medical problems; for others, the challenge may be financial, psychological, or interpersonal. Sooner or later, everyone experiences pain. The story of Job resonates with us because Job walked down the same path of misfortune that all humans do. Like Job, we too find ourselves asking why bad things happen in a world in which the good God is in control.

Although Job did not seek out the guidance of his peers, three came to visit him and tried to explain why his situation turned sour. His friends would have done much better had they listened to Job’s heart instead of offering solutions he was not seeking. The human body has two ears and one mouth. Maybe we should do twice as much listening as we do speaking. If we are known as one who can listen, we can be a blessing to those around us. Currently, when mental health issues are plentiful, we should not feel compelled to provide the answers to our friends. Maybe they want to vent, and our role is to let them speak about their troubled heart without judgement or condemnation.

We have all experienced someone’s mindless chatter or dismissive judgment at a moment when we needed to be deeply understood. When we listen, really listen, we speak with our ears and our heart. We communicate our respect, and we tell that person we value them. We can be the non-anxious presence in that person’s life and listen to their struggles. Wisdom comes from listening.